I haven't been following FMA recently so this was all new territory. I don't know what Riza has on her back that she wants Roy to burn away, or why, but boy did the moment when he pulls off his gloves have the authentic slash thud to the gut feel to it. Bravo FMA. And still I wonder, would it have a harder thud if it had been another guy?
Reasons for yes: playing the power balances shtick is always thuddier between guys. Guy-guy is assumed equal on a basic level that man-woman is not- or rather, not by me. In m/m the military rank thing, the officer-subordinate thing, the emotional intimacy within a stratified structure thing, the fact of trust, is icing on the cake: that two presumed-equal partners have an agreement (because of rank and whatever) that they are not equal, and that's hot.
Male-female is presumed unequal. In the FMA universe, in spite of the women of rank in the military, power is in the hands of men still: they do the deciding of what goes down. Riza and Roy cannot be presumed equal, and what is icing in m-m (the military rank thing, the officer-subordinate thing, the emotional intimacy within a stratified structure) becomes just business as usual in m-f. Of course you trust your back to a woman: what reason does she have to betray you? Of course you outrank her: she's a woman and you're a man. What's transgressive in her asking you to mutilate her? That's what women are for. (OK, overstatement: but in a male universe women exist to be hurt by men, willingly or not. Nothing new there.)
Reasons for no, it's better this way: err, well, the fall-out from slash, actually. Guy subordinating himself to guy is old news and, ironically, business as usual in the realms of *my* imagination at any rate. But if you look at this ep as a slash scenario with a woman replacing one of the guys, it becomes transgressive from that fact- one of the slash guys is a woman. So we have an officer about to mutilate one of his 'men' at the man's request. The officer's moral and emotional dilemma is the same: not that he's going to hurt a woman but that he's going to hurt one of his people. It's a test of the trust between them that his subordinate can make the request and he can comply.
Equally- we get a flashback to what I'm assuming is Riza's first appearance. The manga I'd read to date (first eight tanks or so) had her as tough chick and suppressed romantic interest, and didn't break too much new ground as far as I could see. But what we see here is that Riza has moral authority, and more importantly for transgressive texts, what I see as a male kind of moral authority. Women often have moral authority in male-authored works, but usually in a 'keepers of the flame' way. Someone once said that women are made guardians of traditional morality and values so men don't have to be. They get to have their cake and eat it: the morality is still there- safely stowed, as it were- so the world is still a safe place, but the men aren't constrained from the fun of mayhem and violence.
But Riza's morality isn't traditional female. It's traditional fighting man/ sin-eater. We break the laws so other people don't have to. We take the guilt of murder and bloodshed so other people can be at peace. We don't glorify the murder and bloodshed because it's not glorious. But it is, we judge, necessary, so we do it and take the consequences. And Roy accepts that stance as his own kind of morality.
I have a faint bell ringing; I think it's the female general in the Second Taiki novel who expresses some of the same attitude. A dirty job and we do it. And because the women do this traditional male dirty job, to me they have the moral and emotional weight of men, and are consequently fit subjects for slash.
Coincidentally I was watching the last episodes of Samurai Champloo when my Gangan arrived. There's the difference writ large. I like Fuu; she's a sympathetic character; but she's always kept out of the male action, even when the action is a baseball game. Mugen keeps patting her on the head and telling her not to get involved or to run away or whatever. She's all trad female morality (Can't we all just get along?) which is sensible, yes, but not at all transgressive. You can't do slash with Fuu. She's trad female character doing trad female things with no transgression at all.
But of course, and equally, you can't do slash with Mugen and Jin, because SC is quite clear about the real limits of the male approach. These guys aren't female enough to do slash with because they lack, until the very end, an acceptance of the importance of the emotional connection that makes slash possible. It's not even that they hate each other. Hate can easily be turned to slash. But what can one do with irritation? Damned little.
Fortunately there's always yaoi which doesn't need justification or even much in the way of in character. This is good, because Jin without glasses is too gorgeous to leave unravished. But I ain't going to write it.